I typically try to keep these expert league draft write-ups short but this year’s Yahoo! Friends & Family draft serves as an interesting draft to both: 1) Share a little more about my in-draft thinking and 2) Go off on tangents based on a couple of interesting draft gambits. So apologies in advance for the Tolstoyan/Grantlandian length of this post.
Fantasy baseball draft rooms remind me of poker tables. I do not play a lot of poker but, for analogy’s sake, I’ll pontificate that there are two types of tables when you play with good players: 1) Strong but predictable play with occasional risks/bluffs and 2) Unpredictable but strong play that takes you out of your comfort zone.
Most leagues we play in fall under the former for 15-team mixed snake drafts (AL/NL-only auctions a whole different beast). There really was not a moment in this year’s 15-team mixed LABR and KFFL drafts where I felt uncomfortable. I had a general strategy, my values, and the NFBC ADPs. All peachy. I am not saying I dominated those drafts – just that I felt pretty comfortable. It did not hurt that I picked 8th in both those drafts so I did not have to worry as much about position runs.
As you can probably guess, I consider the Yahoo! Friends & Family draft room to be the unpredictable, discomforting type of draft room. You can click on the link to see the full results. Before I get into this year’s, let me get the mandatory stuff out of the way:
- 2013 finish (co-managed w/ Grey but I led/botched the draft) – 12th out of 14. Won by Rotoworld’s DJ Short (106) over Yahoo’s Scott Pianowski (105). What went wrong? We could’ve survived my first 3 picks (Harper/Verlander/Holliday) but BJ Upton/Ike Davis in rounds 4/6 combined with a cratered bullpen (Axford/Hanrahan) and poor SP2/SP3 (Gallardo/Kennedy) doomed this team (bottom 3 in R/HR/RBI/SV/ERA/WHIP). The Cuddyer and Pence value picks are like icing on a turd. This is the 3rd straight poor finish after a 3rd place finish in our inaugural year. Really frustrating (and part of the reason why improving my 14/15-team mixed draft strategy was a priority this year).
- 2014 league parameters (changes): 15 teams (vs 14), 1400 IP cap (it was 1250 in 2012 and I drafted 2013 assuming it was 1250 again), no IP minimum, daily roster changes that go into effect next day, $100 FAAB only for waiver claims (unlimited FA pickups/drops), typical ESPN roster format except 2 UTIL and 4 OF (C/1B/2B/SS/3B/OF/OF/OF/OF/CI/MI/UTIL/UTIL/9 P/3 bench/2 DL). You do not have to fill every slot on the roster at the draft.
- Side note on daily pickups with no FAAB – This is a mixed blessing. I do prefer being able to make daily changes to my roster and this gives me more opportunities to use the Stream-o-Nator and Hitter-tron. But the reality is that it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to snag any player based on breaking news. I whine that I cannot beat Grey to the punch in RCL but this league is half-populated with people as quick (or quicker) as Grey. My only advantage is most of the quick triggers are in California so I have a shot at being the first to act on early morning breaking news. Most likely, any daily pickups I make will be of the boring ‘what’s left’ variety.
Now to the draft. Here were the key gambits:
- Dalton Del Don of Yahoo! (and formerly Rotowire) starting the draft Kershaw/J-Fer/Scherzer/Billy Hamilton/G. Cole on his way to a nearly 50/50 hit/pitch split (converting draft slots to $). He did draft power with later picks so this is not a pure pitching and speed play – just a SP-centric draft with a strength at SB.
- My take: I like Dalton but I don’t like this gambit. I ran his pitching through my category $ calcs and the only category he is a near lock for top 2-3 is K’s. He is above average in Wins/ERA/WHIP but not by an overwhelming amount and a 1400 IP cap makes it difficult to excel in all three categories. His offense, however, is putrid for R/RBI/AVG at magnitudes much greater than his ERA/WHIP/K strength. Thanks to Hamilton he is above average in SB and his HRs are enough that he can net a few points. It is always possible to grind out some R/RBI by out-AB’ing the cellar dwellers but I think even that will be hard. The only way I see this playing out well is a combination of good fortune with AVG + good fortune with closers + 1-2 huge SP for hitting swaps done throughout the year.
- I think if forced to execute this gambit, I’d punt HR/RBI and focus on R/SB/AVG guys. I also would go with just 2 aces vs 3 and divert some $ to RP. I think a 2 SP1 / 1 SP2 / 1 RP1 / 2 RP2 strategy in 15-team provides a little more $ for offense while still providing potential for 5-category pitching dominance.
- Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! drafting zero SPs and 3 closers (Chapman, Uehara, Henderson) in an echo of his 2012 draft (where he drafted only 2 SP). This seems to be the “punt W/K strategy and aim to get 100 points in the other 8 category” play that takes advantage of the fact there is no IP minimum.
- My take: This strategy has caused a lot of angst on Twitter by leaguemates Christopher Liss (Rotowire) and Michael Salfino (WSJ/Yahoo). There are three potential edges in this strategy: 1) You can spend more on hitters because you are not drafting SPs, 2) Maximizing ABs (a concept I’m quite familiar with) by rostering only hitters on your bench plus creating some extra spots by rostering less than 9 pitchers to swap in when starting rostered hitters are sitting and 3) Maximizing matchups via the extra roster spots so you are getting better quality per game played – e.g., starting Drew Stubbs only against lefties or when @COL. After looking at the total Games played per team in 2013, it is clear most teams are at about 90-95% the maximum of Games. I think the maximum AB ‘edge’ one can get is in the +5% range which I estimate at anywhere from 3-7 standings points spread out across R/HR/RBI/SB. Really depends on the distribution of stats across the teams. I think the potential to maximize matchups is limited because this is a 15-team league. There are no same-day pickups so you cannot leverage extra bench spots to pick up guys hitting in prime lineup spots. Just about any hitter with platoon value has overall value and will be owned. So I think there is a slight edge on offense but – based on the team he drafted – I do not see him as a ‘lock’ for anything more than 50 hitting points. Definitely potential for more but not a ‘lock’ – especially if an early hitter pick underperforms or gets injured. As for pitching, his Saves/ERA/WHIP have potential for 45 points but, with 3 closers, there isn’t a lot of slack (underscored by the fact that his #1 closer – Chapman – recently broke his face). And we all know that chasing Saves means using in-season replacements who cannot be counted on for dominant ERA/WHIP. If he gets into an ERA/WHIP hole, it will be hard to come out of it.
- Net-net, I like this strategy more than DDD’s but I’d put the chances of him getting 100+ points slightly lower than if he did a standard strategy as Pianowski can be a beast in daily-roster change leagues (he has 95+ points in 3 of last 4 Yahoo! F&F).
- Brad Evans of Yahoo! doing the Weekend at Bernie’s gambit where you play dead most of the draft and use auto-draft. Aside from the inevitable late-round injury cases (Medlen, Corbin, Beachy) and SAGNOF relief duo of Qualls/Hawkins, his team doesn’t look too bad.
Here is my draft with some notes below:
Razzball Rudy Gamble 1. (13) Adam Jones (Bal – OF) 2. (18) Jason Kipnis (Cle – 2B) 3. (43) Albert Pujols (LAA – 1B) 4. (48) Eric Hosmer (KC – 1B) 5. (73) Jordan Zimmermann (Was – SP) 6. (78) Michael Wacha (StL – SP,RP) 7. (103) Wilin Rosario (Col – C) 8. (108) David Robertson (NYY – RP) 9. (133) Tony Cingrani (Cin – SP,RP) 10. (138) Norichika Aoki (KC – OF) 11. (163) Brad Miller (Sea – 2B,SS) 12. (168) Victor Martinez (Det – 1B) 13. (193) Jon Lester (Bos – SP) 14. (198) Rex Brothers (Col – RP) 15. (223) Avisail García (CWS – OF) 16. (228) Oswaldo Arcia (Min – OF) 17. (253) Jesse Crain (Hou – RP) 18. (258) Corey Dickerson (Col – OF) 19. (283) Wade Miley (Ari – SP) 20. (288) Matt Dominguez (Hou – 3B) 21. (313) Erasmo Ramirez (Sea – SP) 22. (318) Jake Peavy(Bos – SP) 23. (343) Hector Santiago (LAA – SP,RP) 24. (348) Dayan Viciedo (CWS – OF) 25. (373) Vic Black (NYM – RP)
- Pick #13. F**k me. Had that same pick last year. (Grey got #10). At least this year I feel better about the late 1st/early 2nd round options.
- The 1 minute timer for selections was borderline cruel at times for me after slow drafting KFFL and an NFBC team.
- Mental note: With two UTIL, assume everyone drafts 5 OF but that drafting 4-5 1B/3B will happen a bit more. Even with Ortiz/Butler/V-Mart at 1B eligibility, corners may go high. That said, I am probably punting 3B again unless I get Encarnacion. I also do not want a SAGNOF OF. All my OFs should be able to contribute in at least 3 categories. I would rather have an SP with the 3rd or 4th but only on my terms (have drafted no SPs in the first 4 rounds of 2 of my 3 15-team mixed drafts so far).
- Mental note: While this is a daily roster change league, filling 1400 IP is not easy (only 5 of 14 got there in 2013). If you assume 6 IP/GS, that is 200 GS + 3 full seasons of relief pitching or 180 GS with 5 full reliever seasons. The average RCL team had 1330 IP last year (with 180 GS cap) and, in 15-team, it is not like you necessarily want much more than 180 GS. If high K-rate middle relievers go cheap, pick up some. If not, draft a lot of starters and plan to use Stream-o-nator to play matchups and count on the waiver wire for emerging MRs and SPs. But I would like to be in a position to get 1,400 IP to maximize Wins/K’s without punting ERA/WHIP along the way.
- I went through several permutations of 1st/2nd round drafting and concluded that there was about a 60/40 chance one of four OFs (Jones, Braun, CarGo, Harper) falls to me at 13. If that happened, I felt positive that I could draft one of the following 1Bs (Davis, Fielder, Encarnacion, Votto) with the 18th pick. I just needed one of the SS (Hanley, Tulo) to go in the top 12 and two of Darvish/Ellsbury/Beltre/Longoria going in the top 18. I had 1st round fallback plans to take either Davis, Encarnacion, or Cano (Grey and I agreed that Kershaw was a near lock for top 10). The good news is that Hanley went in the top 12 and Adam Jones fell to me. The bad news was that Paul Singman and Andy Behrens gobbled up Votto and Encarnacion at #16 and #17 (only Darvish went out of that ‘top 18′ group), leaving me with none of my desired 1B. I ended up choosing Kipnis as I felt he was the best value left on the board. Would have been THRILLED to get Encarnacion as he has 3B eligibility in Yahoo which bumps him to 10th overall in my rankings. I have seen some compelling arguments on Freeman this year but 18th felt early for him.
- For my 3rd/4th picks, I had not planned on taking a 1B (assumed 1st/2nd round) and hoped one of Wainwright/Sale/Bumgarner would make it back to me. Nope on that one. This is where Dalton’s Kershaw/J-Fer/Scherzer troika helped facilitate a slight creep in the SP run, leaving me with Felix Hernandez and Price as my two SP options. I don’t like Price this year because of velocity concerns and did not love F-Her with this pick. One of my strategies this year is to ignore ‘position run’ pressure – if I don’t like the guy, have the faith there will be value later in the draft at that position. With both the 14/15 picks behind me having no 1B, I grabbed Pujols and F-Her/Price went with the next two picks. Not loving the OF values, my decision is between starting the RP run with Kimbrel or take Hosmer at #4. I decide to play it safe and go with Hosmer though I know my shot at an elite closer (Kimbrel/Chapman/Jansen/Holland) is likely toast.
- After the first 4 rounds, I do not feel comfortable at all. The draft has not ‘slowed down’ for me. (In hindsight, I think I made the right call on these picks.)
- Things ‘slow down’ for me as the next 24 picks between my 4th/5th start ‘going to plan’. As expected, the premium closers go quickly (the last, Holland, is gone by the 6th pick in the 5th round). Only 3 SPs are taken (Greinke, Cole, Gio). The next tier of OFs go off the board. Rosenthal is still on the board for my 5th pick (pick #73) but I like Jordan Zimmermann and have to grab at least one SP in the next two picks before people start grabbing SP2. Take Zimmermann.
- Rosenthal taken on the turn and now I have a few OF choices (Gordon, Werth) and RP choices (Uehara, Nathan). I decide on taking another SP (Wacha) to protect myself against another SP run. I know at least Jeff Erickson of Rotowire is a big fan of Wacha so no assurances he makes it back to me with pick #7. Plan on taking closer with next pick.
- A number of SP/RP go off the board but I still have several options on each by my 7th pick. Shields and Teheran are still on the board if I had gone with the OF/RP instead of Wacha. Oh well. But Perkins and Robertson are still on the board so nothing really lost. I look at my draft board and am surprised to see Wilin Rosario still there at pick #103. I have him as my top catcher and at #26 (?!) driven by his power advantage and decent AVG. I really prefer punting the position in 1 catcher leagues but this is a huge discount. Four catchers are off the board (Posey/Mauer/Santana/Molina) so it is not like everyone is punting catcher. I take Rosario to help solidify the offense figuring Perkins or Robertson makes it back. Robertson does and I take him with the 8th pick.
- Now that I have a core (5 hitters/SP/SP/RP), I am paying attention to the balance on my team. I have been adding up my category $ while I draft to make sure I avoid last season’s pitfalls of going too K-heavy (at the expense of WHIP) for pitching and not focusing enough on AVG (Based on Grey’s drafts so far, I don’t think he shares my low AVG/OBP concern.). I am not a slave to this balance – just using this as a tiebreaker for my picks. I finally land Aoki (10th round) this year whom I really like as a strong 3 category contributor (R/SB/AVG) and nab Brad Miller for the 3rd time (his 2B/SS eligibility a slight plus). Really like Miller this year for 30 HR+SB and solid runs/AVG.
- I like my Cingrani pick at the end of the 9th round to improve my staff’s K/9 but I regret going with a 1B-eligible Victor Martinez with my 12th pick instead of Justin Masterson or maybe Tommy Hunter at RP2 (no way I am taking Axford here after he crushed several of my teams last year and his handcuff would be super-expensive…at least with Hunter, you can get his handcuff in the late rounds). I end up with Lester as my SP4. My hope on V-Mart – besides providing dependable R/RBI/AVG when healthy – is that he gets 5 catcher starts in the first month or two. Really like the flexibility of rotating him into the C slot when Rosario is out. Getting 145+ games out of catcher is one of the few ‘low-hanging fruit’ opportunities to max AB.
- I play ‘chicken’ on RP during the ‘tween’ rounds and it comes back to bite me as teams are aggressively drafting relievers. I reach a bit on Rex Brothers with my 14th pick (#198) hoping to get Hawkins in a few rounds and Brad Evans grabs him 5 picks later. More surprisingly, Funston picks Cody Allen 5 picks after Brothers (likely frustrating Derek Carty who owns Axford but confirming the reason I avoided him). Benoit and Santos are also off the board by my 15th pick.
- Grey drafts his third 3B in Mike Moustakas (after Longoria and Arenado), thwarting my chance of owning him in my first four drafts. I do not love the value on the remaining 3Bs and use my 15th/16th picks on two rhyming upside OFs – Avisail Garcia and Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia helps shore up my power while Avisail has 20/15 potential. Hoping to circle back to MI and 3B while everyone else worries about OFs.
- By the time my 17th pick is up, there is nothing I really love out there. Ervin Santana is my top available SP but I do not feel a ton of pressure to pick up a 5th SP. I scour the relievers and the only guy with even moderate Save potential I see is Jesse Crain. Eh, what the hell. I can stash him on DL until he comes back. Given his price tag, I think the Astros make him closer once he is healthy and potentially dangle him as trade bait come trading deadline.
- Still blah on the SPs at pick #18 (Santana picked at the turn). Going to roll the dice on Corey Dickerson. He is by far the biggest outlier in my values vs. the market consensus. Have him on 2 of my 3 previous teams (LABR/NFBC) and feel like Grey might take him in his next two picks if I do not grab him there. That fills up my 2nd UTIL slot and my 5 OF minimum goal. This pick might come back to bite me if he does not make the team as I either have to waste a bench spot on him or set him free.
- Nothing too exciting the rest of the way. I stock up on SPs (Miley, Peavy, Erasmo, Santiago). I instantly regret taking Miley when I did, thinking I should have gambled on Archie Bradley. Take Matt Dominguez at pick #288 as my 3B which earns him a couple weeks to perform. I had considered him one of my 3B ‘punt’ targets this preseason along with Frazier, Middlebrooks, and Moustakas so it was not surprising he ended up on one of my teams. With the MI options uninspiring, I take Vic Black as my last pick and leave MI open.
- Note: As of today, MI still open. I will fill that when a roster spots opens up from Jesse Crain becoming DL-eligible. I also dumped Black for Josh Fields as a bench MR/save spec and swapped out Dayan Viciedo with Junior Lake off of waivers.
Overall, I drafted a solid team based on my rankings (~$280 and above average in everything except SB where I’m average). I ended up with a 64/36 hit/pitch split for my starting squad (with MI open) which is not far off from my 67/33 target. I have the desired mix of youth and veterans (while Wacha/Cingrani as SP2/SP3 look mighty green, my pitching staff is ancient compared to Grey’s ‘Pitching Staff of the Corn’ with only one starter having more than 36 career GS (Tillman)). Aside from perhaps being too cute on RP2, I did about as good a job as I could expect in avoiding damage from others’ unorthodox strategies (e.g., i secured my offense – aside from MI/3B by pick #18 – avoiding any impact from Pianowski drafting 19 hitters (leaving 3 SP spots blank).
But, whether it is the 3 straight disappointing finishes or the gambits that threw me early in the draft, I do not feel great about this team. Here is hoping my team does not self-destruct like last year’s team so I have a fighter’s chance come May.